Minister Lewis: ‘We are learning as we go’
NASSAU, BAHAMAS- Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Chairman Fred Mitchell on Sunday lambasted the Minnis administration over its hurricane relief response and the prime minister’s refusal to meet with PLP Leader Philip Brave Davis in the aftermath of the storm.
“The prime minister can fly off to New York, party with the rich and famous, speak to the world audience and the secretary general of the United Nations, but is unable to speak to the leader of the opposition in The Bahamas,” Mitchell said in a statement.
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis recently returned from New York, where he addressed the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
Mitchell went on to highlight a series of concerns from residents on Grand Bahama and Abaco over slow moving restoration efforts, the “deteriorating” security situation, and the little-to-no financial support from the government.
He compared the Minnis administration’s support for Dorian victims to the efforts made available by the Christie administration after the passage of Hurricanes Joaquin and Matthew.
“The prime minister should realize that this is not about public relations, but about doing something to help the people on the ground,” Mitchell said.
“The storm is long gone but the recovery effort is scattered and unfocused.”
Hurricane Dorian, a Category 5 storm, barreled down on Abaco and Grand Bahama for three days, with storm surges 18 to 23 feet above normal tide levels, maximum sustained winds at 185 mph and gusts over 220 mph.
The storm devastated the islands, leaving thousands displaced and hundreds missing.
At least 56 people have been confirmed dead thus far, but that number is expected to increase.
Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction Iram Lewis told Eyewitness News Online on Sunday that his newly formed ministry is still in the early phases of its efforts.
“Right now we are managing a major catastrophic incident,” Lewis said, when asked about his ministry’s priorities in the wake of the storm.
“We are in the management/going into reconstruction phase, so right now it is a crossover, it is not a linear process. “There’s going to be some zig-zag between management and reconstruction.
“We are still making adjustments in terms of our management, in terms of our receiving goods, in terms of sorting out goods, setting up the proper distribution points for clothes, food, water, construction materials; that’s all being logistically finalized now. So again this is pretty much a working document.
“We are learning as we go because there’s no way you could have planned for this.”
Lewis noted that as the ministry prepares for reconstruction on the island, it must first be ensured that all ports of entry are up and running at a first class level.
“The Marsh Harbour airport is operational but it is no where near where it should be,” he continued.
“Treasure Cay airport has been totally decimated, 100 percent, so that needs to be up and running.
“Marsh Harbour seaport needs to be up and running. The container port in Cooper’s Town…we need to prioritize and get those up and running.
Lewis said: “Major clean up initiatives, putting infrastructure in place, the road network in order to be able to move people, goods and services, those are critical to our reconstruction phase.”